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A Nobody with a good idea - Why cant we have a crack at game design too?


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#21 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 9933

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 05:18 AM

Noz wrote:
>Infact it is often people who have little to no experience in their chosen field who end up making some of the most successful things. A prime example of this is ‘Diablo Cody’
>Why cant there just be a system where people can just pitch their game ideas to a studio, similar things exist in terms of films, art and such.

I'm always hearing from guys like you that the film industry's system is much more open to outsider pitches than the game industry. So much more open that I ought to know a couple dozen people who've gotten their film ideas made for them, that I should be embarrassed that I've never gotten my own film ideas made, it's so open and easy.

Can you name more film examples besides Diablo Cody? I think that example was shot down rather nicely...

Also, can you tell us about the system for nobodies to pitch their art ideas? 'Cause I've never heard of that. I always heard you had to be, like, artistic.


-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

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#22 drakostar   Members   -  Reputation: 224

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 09:22 AM

Quote:
Original post by Tom Sloper
Also, can you tell us about the system for nobodies to pitch their art ideas? 'Cause I've never heard of that. I always heard you had to be, like, artistic.


There's a grain of truth in that there are lower barriers of entry in art, music, fashion, or writing. Berlin is a fantastic example of this: we have a ton of really awful art and fashion around, thanks to low cost of living, low rents (cheap studio and gallery space), and a fairly liberal atmosphere. There are a few gems in the rough, to be sure, but the low barriers mean pretty much everyone who fancies herself an artist can at least pretend to be one. But yes, doing any of these successfully requires a lot of skill and hard work.

Computer games and film are different. You need a team of specialists, working for a long time. That's just...reality.

It's not that great ideas are a dime a dozen. But they're (quite literally) worthless without some kind of execution. If you've taken that idea and used it to write a great film script or design document, your chances of being taken seriously rise from zero to slim. In other words, you need to be able to effectively *communicate* your idea to the people who will be executing it, and do some kind of actual work yourself. If you don't have any experience with the development process, that's extremely difficult to do.

#23 MrDaaark   Members   -  Reputation: 3555

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 09:24 AM

You can produce a shitty computer game just as easily as you can take a dump on a roll of paper and hang it on a wall. You can get an entire suite of tools for game development for free, while you'd have to pay for that roll of paper. ;)

You can download free tools that will let you create a game and throw it up for sale on Xbox Live for next to nothing. So where is this imaginary barrier? It's gotten easier an easier to do this stuff all the time.

#24 Sean T. McBeth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1541

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 09:38 AM

If you're going to compare games to art, then you'd have to compare AAA budget games to the murals of the Sistine Chapel, or the sculpture of Mount Rushmore. You've completely underestimated the scale and range of game development.

[Formerly "capn_midnight". See some of my projects. Find me on twitter tumblr G+ Github.]


#25 Tangireon   Members   -  Reputation: 239

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 09:41 AM

Quote:
Original post by drakostar
It's not that great ideas are a dime a dozen. But they're (quite literally) worthless without some kind of execution.

I definitely agree with this, and I also see the reverse true, that execution without any thought is just as bad, though you could at least attempt to sell it and mask it with layers of marketing, but marketing can only take you so far, as people do have general preferences and standards which you can tell by varying sales between different game titles (and if one were to study this and put a little thought into game design, he would probably be more able to ride the success waves). There isn't a hierarchy of worth to this, and if anything, concept & design would probably be at the top of the hierarchy since well, they are usually the guys leading the team. Or rather, as the starting ignition to the whole project. One can't really function without the other, how about I just leave this sub-topic on that.

[Edited by - Tangireon on November 1, 2008 9:41:57 AM]

#26 ruby-lang   Members   -  Reputation: 232

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Posted 19 September 2008 - 08:02 AM

Quote:
Original post by drakostar
The US (assuming you're American) is probably the best place in the world to start a small business. Okay, maybe not right this very moment. But the legal/tax situation makes it fairly easy.

You have an idea for a product. It's difficult/impossible to sell the idea to someone else, unless you already have connections. So join the many (and yes, mostly failed) entrepreneurs who have attempted to realize their ideas. There are a ton of books and web resources to help you get started.


Agreed. Scale down your grand idea, then hire freelancers (one programmer and one artist will suffice, if you reduce your idea to its essence) and turn it into reality. You can make it happen with a few thousand bucks if you know what you are doing and conserve your resources.

#27 Nozyspy   Members   -  Reputation: 100

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Posted 19 September 2008 - 05:41 PM

Fascinating, most fascinating… I am pleased to see that your reactions are balanced and not simply “get lost punk”. For the most part I have found your replies to be reasonable and also helpful. However there are few points I would like to make further.

When I said I had a “good idea”, I didn’t mean the proverbial few scribbles on the back of a napkin, rather a lot of thought has gone into this, and I get the impression that some of you think this is a bit of a whim. A ‘portfolio’ of ideas would be no problem, just time consuming is all. Nevertheless, an excellent point there!

Now to answer a few points directly;

Working with technical limitations.

Personally I don’t see this as such a great problem for ‘my idea’. I do level design for a (nearly) 6 year old engine. Believe me I know all about the infuriating limitations such a thing imposes upon your original vision. I also have experience on how to find loopholes to get around them.

Really all I need is a second hand game engine (I have two in mind, which may be suitable), rather than going to the trouble of creating everything from scratch.

Game Assets.

Yes, of course for a large title an equally large development team is needed, however, the advantage with having your idea already planned out in full is that it should be quicker to progress with the more technical aspects of production. I honestly wasn’t joking when I said I could have a full story done within a week! ;)

True, the story is not all of the game. However I very strongly disagree with anyone who says that the story is one of the less important aspects of game design. Fewer games that are merely ‘point, shoot, kill’ and more games that actually involve the player in a deep and rich story line would be a good thing in my opinion.

As for working in a team… yes I understand that game development is a team effort, but the thing is that the actual story and design of the game is dictated more by the designer (and unfortunately also by the executives) rather than the rest of the ‘minions’. At least as I understand it anyway. Afterall, if everyone was suggesting things to put in it, nothing would get done would it, there has to be someone up top who keeps on the course that was originally set. It’s like a director, the director doesn’t actually do any of the acting (normally) nor does he set up all the lights and such.

He has people that do that for him. He goes to the lighting guy and says “I want the lighting and mood to be like this…and this and feel like this…” maybe showing him an example. Same thing with the actors. They then go off and try to create in reality what the director sees in his mind.

The point is I would be useless at actually doing coding, animating, or 3d modelling. Unless of course I spent many years learning such. BUT, I could very easily and simply express my ideas to people who do know how to do those things, giving them examples and describing it in detail, so that they could then try and make that into reality. I will give you an example; I can’t use 3Dmax or such things, but for the particular engine I make levels for I know what I am doing. I could very quickly make a simple mock-up of the general layout of the level, complete with architecture and notations. All that would be needed is to refine and sculpt it using the actual game engine being used.

Its just that I get the sense again…that you think what I’m talking about is just standing infront of a bunch of people and telling them what to do. If I had an opportunity do make my ‘idea’ I would be right in there with the concept art, story script, dialogue, motion capture, acting. You name it; I have no problem with that. I can’t think of anything worse for a team’s morale that to have some inexperienced fool barking orders at them!

Making your own game.
Don’t worry, I have already downloaded a few of those ‘make your own game’ programs, and intend to investigate them. I am happy to make plenty of effort, but what I do feel is that I would be useless as a minion, and might to better in more of an oversight role. But that’s just my opinion.

Pitch your idea

In reply to the person who asked how exactly such a system of pitching ideas to game studios would work…look no further than ‘Dragons Den’.

To make it plain, I loathe that program. The idea of having people embarrassed and made fools of on national television is most distasteful. However, the actual system, used in private, could work quite well.

Envision it; three people maybe, an exec, a game designer and someone who is an all rounder. They have one day a week where you can make an appointment, and you get to tell them about your idea, they can then sift through the people they see and find the people they think have really good ideas. Similar to how the ‘X Factor’ works. At least the ‘nobody’s’ get to have a go, even if they don’t get any further! Afterall, it is better to try and fail, than to not try at all!

Noz


#28 MrDaaark   Members   -  Reputation: 3555

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Posted 19 September 2008 - 05:58 PM

Yeah, the usual oversight role. That's like a lot of projects here where people post for help, and envision themselves as the supervisor, where all these people come and spend their spare time laboring away to make someone else's vision.

This is no different than wanting to supervise people building your dream house. Like 25 people are going to show up, bring their own materials, and start building. You need to buy land, get the permits, supply the materials, and pay the workers.

But you keep talking as if no one gave you a viable option to design your game. I gave you several. If you get good with XNA, Mircosoft even holds a design / build / play contest every year that publishes the winning entry.

You can self publish. You can publish through XBox Live Community Games.

The tech knowledge and talent is up to you. The only thing holding you back here is yourself.

#29 Nozyspy   Members   -  Reputation: 100

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Posted 19 September 2008 - 06:12 PM

Quote:
Original post by Daaark
Yeah, the usual oversight role. That's like a lot of projects here where people post for help, and envision themselves as the supervisor, where all these people come and spend their spare time laboring away to make someone else's vision.


As far as i am aware, having a person(s) with a vision and then finding people to make that into reality is usually how it works with game design / film directing.

Quote:
But you keep talking as if no one gave you a viable option to design your game. I gave you several. If you get good with XNA, Mircosoft even holds a design / build / play contest every year that publishes the winning entry.


Yes, i appreciate that, but the catch there is get good. Learning a whole new program and then 'getting good' at it before you can even bring to fruition the other 80% of the game (plot, characters, gametype, leveldesign, texture art, player motivation etc.) is the bit that takes a long time. Hence why I (and a good many others!) would like to be able to pitch ideas to game studios, so that the people who have alrady learned and excelled in those fields can be put to use doing what they were trained to do.

Anyway, like i said, i have already downloaded a few programs and intend to invesigate them further.

Thanks for the advice guys!

#30 MrDaaark   Members   -  Reputation: 3555

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Posted 19 September 2008 - 06:16 PM

Quote:
Original post by Nozyspy
Quote:
Original post by Daaark
Yeah, the usual oversight role. That's like a lot of projects here where people post for help, and envision themselves as the supervisor, where all these people come and spend their spare time laboring away to make someone else's vision.
As far as i am aware, having a person(s) with a vision and then finding people to make that into reality is usually how it works with game design / film directing.
Yes, and this over seer has the appropriate money and resources.

Quote:
Yes, i appreciate that, but the catch there is get good.
You have to get good at anything you want to do in life.

#31 Kylotan   Moderators   -  Reputation: 3338

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Posted 20 September 2008 - 01:27 AM

Quote:
Original post by Nozyspy
When I said I had a “good idea”, I didn’t mean the proverbial few scribbles on the back of a napkin, rather a lot of thought has gone into this, and I get the impression that some of you think this is a bit of a whim.

It's more the fact that saying you have a great idea is not the same as having a great idea. Nobody ever claims to have a bad idea. So it's not that we don't believe you, it's just that trying to convince us that your idea is great carries no weight at all.

Quote:
I honestly wasn’t joking when I said I could have a full story done within a week! ;)

That's ok, I could have a story done by the end of the day. Creative people tend to have a lot of stories ready to burst onto the page (or word processor) at most times.

Quote:
True, the story is not all of the game. However I very strongly disagree with anyone who says that the story is one of the less important aspects of game design. Fewer games that are merely ‘point, shoot, kill’ and more games that actually involve the player in a deep and rich story line would be a good thing in my opinion.

This is a strawman argument. Nobody is arguing that stories in games have no value, but the fact is that as far as games are concerned, games can be great without any story at all, but they cannot be great with an amazing story and poor execution. It would be like having a book where half of the text is smudged or too small to read, full of typing errors, and the chapters out of order. Execution is everything. So for your game to have worth, story or no story, you need to address the rest of the product, which is the input and output interface, the resource management, the performance, the soundtrack, etc. These are not minor details to be left to a lackey implementing your vision. They are as important a part of the design as the story is.

Quote:
It’s like a director, the director doesn’t actually do any of the acting (normally) nor does he set up all the lights and such.

He has people that do that for him. He goes to the lighting guy and says “I want the lighting and mood to be like this…and this and feel like this…” maybe showing him an example. Same thing with the actors. They then go off and try to create in reality what the director sees in his mind.

It would be best for you to not speculate too much on how you think game development works, when there are many people here who actually know the truth. ;)

One important point is that nobody puts someone in charge of such an operation unless they understand the roles below them. You can't just get any person with an inspirational idea and have them effectively delegate to teams of professionals. Nobody would take you seriously. Unless you're waving a huge amount of money at them, in which case they'd at least pretend to take you seriously until the project was over.

Quote:
The point is I would be useless at actually doing coding, animating, or 3d modelling. Unless of course I spent many years learning such. BUT, I could very easily and simply express my ideas to people who do know how to do those things, giving them examples and describing it in detail, so that they could then try and make that into reality.

Again, all the "Idea Guys" that come onto this forum make this same claim. Yet firstly, they cannot ever prove that they would be good enough at this. Secondly, they can never show why anybody would actually want someone performing this role. Artists, coders, level designers, all have absolutely no lack of people who would like to direct them to making this thing or that thing. Why should you be at the top of that pile? That's the key.

Quote:
I am happy to make plenty of effort, but what I do feel is that I would be useless as a minion, and might to better in more of an oversight role. But that’s just my opinion.

I hope you revise your opinion, because it will stop you achieving your dreams. You are looking at people who have worked hard to gain their privileged positions, noting that they don't get their hands dirty at the moment, and wishing you could have their current job. But it doesn't work that way.

Steven Spielberg - started off doing his own camera work and screenwriting, followed by working as an intern for a while.

Peter Jackson - in his early films, he'd not just direct, but write the screenplay, do the cinematography, editing, and also act!

Will Wright - before being able to come up with lofty ideas like Spore, he programmed his own games on the Commodore 64.

Quote:
In reply to the person who asked how exactly such a system of pitching ideas to game studios would work…look no further than ‘Dragons Den’.

The people the 'Dragons' invest in usually come up with a completely new idea or service, which carries a lot of value due to standing out of the crowd or cornering a market niche. Merely having a really cool story (even perhaps the best story ever) for a computer game is unfortunately not anywhere near that sort of status. Besides which, the amount of money that the Dragons Den people typically invest in these schemes is actually far short of what you would need to develop a AAA game anyway! By a factor of about 10.

Quote:
As far as i am aware, having a person(s) with a vision and then finding people to make that into reality is usually how it works with game design / film directing.

Not really. Game design is more about established teams working together on an agreed title, often a title dictated to them by the publishers directly or indirectly. Film directing is very different because you assemble ad hoc teams, typically of contractors, for individual projects. But even then the director is not as all-important as you make it sound - he or she typically still has to rely on whoever writes the screenplay, and the director also is reliant on the producer to fund and organise the project. Only the best directors get to pick their producers; the others have to try and pitch their project accordingly and bend to commercial whim to get it made.

Quote:
Hence why I (and a good many others!) would like to be able to pitch ideas to game studios, so that the people who have alrady learned and excelled in those fields can be put to use doing what they were trained to do.

All creative people would love to be able to pitch ideas and have other people spend time and money making them. The world doesn't work that way though, sadly. Not in film, not in games, not in anything really.

#32 Telastyn   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3726

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Posted 20 September 2008 - 03:22 AM

Quote:

However I very strongly disagree with anyone who says that the story is one of the less important aspects of game design.


Story has nothing to do with game design.

It's part of the art design, but does nothing to the rules of the game. Warcraft is warcraft if the units are orcs or zerg or tanks or religious space marines.

Again, you say nothing as to the rules of your 'game'. Go write a book. Getting published has a much lower barrier to entry, especially since it seems as though you could have a full novel done and polished in a week.

#33 Dinner   Members   -  Reputation: 265

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Posted 20 September 2008 - 04:36 AM

Alot of engines dont require a uni education to build a game these days, use one of them and build a game, you should be able to build something that will show of your designs, which would then encourage people to help you to add custom elements to the engine to separate your idea further

I went to uni, still dont think im mature enough in my skills to bring my ideas to life, 3 years coding at uni, is only a step it doesn't put you at the end of the path.

Writing is just as hard, it does have some good points, in that its mostly solo, until if it gets to a publisher, but you have to be able to write something worth reading, its hard especially when your new to something to see how truly behind you are.

#34 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 9933

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Posted 20 September 2008 - 05:21 AM

spy wrote:
>Envision it; three people maybe, an exec, a game designer and someone who is an all rounder. They have one day a week where you can make an appointment, and you get to tell them about your idea, they can then sift through the people they see and find the people they think have really good ideas. Similar to how the ‘X Factor’ works. At least the ‘nobody’s’ get to have a go, even if they don’t get any further! Afterall, it is better to try and fail, than to not try at all!

Don't have to envision it. Every game company has a submissions manager and a submission process (http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson21.htm and http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson35.htm). Some companies DO accept amateur submissions. It's up to YOU to find them.

Original post by Daaark:
>>Yeah, the usual oversight role. That's like a lot of projects here where people ... envision themselves as the supervisor, where all these people come and spend their spare time laboring away to make someone else's vision.

So spy replied:
>As far as i am aware, having a person(s) with a vision and then finding people to make that into reality is usually how it works with game design / film directing.

You missed his point entirely. Of course someone on the project has the vision. And of course someone on the project supervises. His point was that there's all these amateurs like you, thinking they're gonna be able to jump in without any experience or skill and take both roles. Or that the game industry owes "idea amateurs" that opportunity. And his point furthermore is that this is an unrealistic expectation.

> but the catch there is get good.

That's a LIFE "catch." Not an unfairness specific to the game industry. Your post is a classic case of the "street corner Joe" who thinks the world owes him a break. In this world, you have to make your own breaks. And I thank you for your post, by the way -- it's excellent base material for my writing and teaching.


-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#35 drakostar   Members   -  Reputation: 224

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Posted 20 September 2008 - 05:57 AM

Quote:
Original post by Telastyn
Story has nothing to do with game design.

This is absolutely true. However! Some of the highest-rated games of all time, including Half-Life 2 and BioShock, are so rated almost entirely because of their stories and high production values. This applies to almost all adventure games as well: story/dialogue/humor come first, and good puzzles integrate with the story.

You could, arguably, create a game based entirely on an existing engine with no new gameplay mechanics, and still succeed in making a new game that people would buy. Outside the shooter and adventure genres, though, most expect a little more *game*.

#36 stimarco   Members   -  Reputation: 1071

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Posted 20 September 2008 - 06:16 AM

Quote:
Original post by Nozyspy


Pitch your idea

In reply to the person who asked how exactly such a system of pitching ideas to game studios would work…look no further than ‘Dragons Den’.


Not even in "Dragons' Den" do we see *just* some random ideas being floated and winning money: the 'Dragons' invariably expect at least some evidence that you know what you're doing and have done your homework first. At the very least, you'd better have a business plan of some sort. (In many cases, there's already a business in place and the pitch is for more investment to grow said business.) In fact, it's usually the "Please buy my idea off me!" people who make the worst impressions and produce the most best TV 'moments' of humiliation.

The same applies in game design (and any other profession). Note the second word there: "design". Complete design documents (note the plural) for a major, AAA game can easily reach over a million words. That's roughly equivalent to TEN complete novels! That's after redrafting and editing. And, unlike a novel, a game design will be updated and maintained during the development lifecycle of the project. It's a hell of a lot of work.

This is what separates the somebody from the nobody.

There's an infinity of ideas, but only a finite amount of money, time and resources to spend on them. That's why professionals constantly repeat the mantra that the "idea" alone is utterly worthless. It's the execution of that idea which matters.

(J. K. Rowling's first novel took over a *decade* to reach the bookstores. She didn't throw it together in an afternoon and even after it was written, it was still rejected by many publishers before she found one who were willing to take it on.)

Quote:

Envision it; three people maybe, an exec, a game designer and someone who is an all rounder. They have one day a week where you can make an appointment, and you get to tell them about your idea, they can then sift through the people they see and find the people they think have really good ideas. Similar to how the ‘X Factor’ works. At least the ‘nobody’s’ get to have a go, even if they don’t get any further! Afterall, it is better to try and fail, than to not try at all!


One day a week? How many publishers are developing entirely new 50 games (i.e. not platform ports) per year? I can't think of any. Not even the mighty EA and Microsoft have that kind of money to spend. Even a 'casual' game these days can cost over $100K and take six months to produce! 50 of those would be $5 million and the equivalent of 25 *years* of development time!

Remember, a game's overall production budget is roughly 50% development. The other 50% goes on marketing. If each and every major publisher were cranking out the equivalent of one game per week, we'd be swamped with advertising for games... resulting in very few sales. There are only so many advertising slots available on TV; so many posters you can put up; so many magazine pages you can use to pimp your product. And you're fighting with all your rivals' games too.

Not even Hollywood is stupid enough to put out more than a couple of big, blockbuster movies at the same time, hence the next "Harry Potter" film's release being put back until next year.
Sean Timarco Baggaley (Est. 1971.)Warning: May contain bollocks.

#37 Kekko   Members   -  Reputation: 504

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Posted 20 September 2008 - 06:20 AM

Nozyspy:
I consider myself a good programmer. Not great, really good or brilliant, but good. I'm probably among the better ones you can get for free. Because you know what? I would totally join you and help you envision your dream *if* I had the time over which I haven't since another guy with a vision snapped me up already.

But assuming I had that time, here is what I look for in hobby projects, speaking only from my very own personal experience:

- Awesomeness! Sell me a design/idea! This is usually done through a great design document or something similar that contains as much information as possible about the game. I'm a little confused why you come here complaining about why no one will make a game out of your great idea when you don't even tell us your idea. And no, a paragraph or two doesn't count. We want sketches of game screens, gameplay features, character bios and monster details (or whatever your game contains), etc. If you can sell your idea to developers, then you can probably sell it to players (with sell here meaning convincing them to download and try it). Most people here know that coming up with a couple of paragraphs is ridicolously easy while filling in all the details is fricking hard. From what you have said here, I cannot envision a game, there is just not enough information. And if I cannot envision a game, I will not be inspired. And if I'm not inspired, I'll not work for free.

- I want to do what I think is funny. If I sign up to program the game, I don't want to do manual writing or playtesting or marketing or art or sound engineering or something else. And the artist will probably only want to make art. You have basically three ways to make people work on your dream. You can sell your dream so well that it becomes their dream too (see above), you can pay them or you can make sure they have fun while working on it. This probably means that YOU will have to do a lot of stuff that nobody else likes to do, like playtesting, documenting,

What I'm trying to say is that if you can show us a great idea for a game (Not just telling us you have it, I also have several.) and promise us that you will take care of everything and just let us get on with programming/art making/music composing or whatever we want to do, then I think you will find willing recruits. Which means you'll be both designer, manager and producer. And all these three roles are just as hard and probably harder to be good at than being a good programmer or artist.


#38 Kekko   Members   -  Reputation: 504

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Posted 20 September 2008 - 06:24 AM

Oh and another thing.

If you're strong on storytelling, go for a game with a strong story element, definitely. I played Homeworld almost exclusively for the story. Also a game with a simple yet fun gameplay can be vastly improved by a good story. At least in my book.

#39 stimarco   Members   -  Reputation: 1071

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Posted 20 September 2008 - 06:39 AM

Quote:
Original post by drakostar
Quote:
Original post by Telastyn
Story has nothing to do with game design.

This is absolutely true. However! Some of the highest-rated games of all time, including Half-Life 2 and BioShock, are so rated almost entirely because of their stories and high production values.


This isn't strictly accurate. They're highly rated because they're good games. The story elements are an ingredient. In the case of HL2 the story works precisely *because* it's a good *game* first and foremost. The story elements are integrated into the game, not merely nailed on as a last-minute addition. You don't feel as if you're having your joystick yanked out of your grasp and forced to watch a bit of movie; the story feels like part of the gaming process itself. The story emerges from the play. As it bloody well should.

When a designer places Story at the top of their list, they're already making a big mistake. Games aren't Story. They're Play. When a designer starts with a linear story and plot structure and tries to spot-weld a game onto it, the end result is (more often than not) a movie which demands you complete a task -- a level, a sub-game, a mission, a puzzle -- in order to view the next bit of the movie. The movie itself is treated as a 'reward'; the game itself becomes secondary and often feels tacked on.

If you're not putting Play at the very top of your list, you're doing it wrong.

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This applies to almost all adventure games as well: story/dialogue/humor come first, and good puzzles integrate with the story.


This is because stories (in the traditional sense) are essentially mysteries. They're games in their own right and do include an element of (subtle) interaction: the writer needs to latch onto their readers' innate curiosity, tease it, hook it onto their line and keep them wanting to know more. Different readers are attracted by different mysteries: some like it up-front, in the form of a juicy whodunnit; others like it more subtle, perhaps preferring to study relationships (chick-lit), or the reasons for a celebrity's life choices (biography). Others might be interested in engineering puzzles, such as why an aircraft crashed or a ship sank. Yet more are interested in untangling the social threads behind industry, big business and so on.

In other words: while the particular *kind* of mystery that attracts our curiosity will vary, the fact that there *is* a mystery involved at some level is what makes a story a story. Unravelling that mystery teaches us something; a process that dates right back to Story's original purpose as a teaching tool.

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You could, arguably, create a game based entirely on an existing engine with no new gameplay mechanics, and still succeed in making a new game that people would buy. Outside the shooter and adventure genres, though, most expect a little more *game*.


I'm not so sure about that. Most simulation-centred games have remained much the same for years, improving only in visual and physical simulation aspects.


Sean Timarco Baggaley (Est. 1971.)Warning: May contain bollocks.

#40 geolycosa   Members   -  Reputation: 217

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Posted 20 September 2008 - 06:44 AM

I think I'll throw in my two cents here.

I currently work at Firaxis Games (of Sid Meier's Civilization fame) where I design and program game systems. I got this job straight out of college, and I'll share with you some of the things I learned along the way.

Be different

There are lots of people just like you with the next great idea and no relevant skills beyond the fact that you play games all day. You have to fix this. Work toward gaining a skill set that nobody else has. I went to art school (not trade school, mind you) and at the same time, learned how to program on my own. Four years later, I'm a programmer with a BFA. This rather unorthodox set of skills and education made me stand out.

Stop playing games

Okay, maybe not, but if you're not spending more time making games than playing them, maybe this job isn't right for you. Don't let your lack of technical skill keep you from building games. Board games and card games are awesome things to have in a portfolio when applying for game design gigs, and require no more overhead than a trip to Hobby Lobby. Stop worrying about your magnum opus and make smaller games - focus on play instead of narrative. Here's some homework: buy a deck of playing cards and make a new game with them every week. Write a blog about it.

Start coding

Programming is the game designer's brush and canvas. If you can't acquire substantial skill in this area, you're out of luck. At Firaxis, all of the game designers are programmers - they write all of the core game play themselves. This changes from studio to studio, of course, but those that can't muster up some reasonable skill in C++ or a scripting language need not apply. This is not to say you need to become an engineer or something. I'm certainly not, but what I do every day at work is write code.

To get you started, here are some of the books I found very helpful when teaching myself to program:
C++ Primer Plus (5th Edition) by Stephen Prata
Game Programming in C++: Start to Finish by Erik Yuzwa - This one is a great place to start
Mathematics for 3D Game Programming & Computer Graphics by Eric Lengyel
Real-Time Rendering, Third Edition by by Tomas Akenine-Moller , Eric Haines, and Naty Hoffman
3D Game Engine Architecture by David Eberly

Do an internship

The summer before my Junior year in college, I landed an internship at Harmonix Music Systems as a technical artist on Guitar Hero II. I 'cold-called' them so to speak (email, actually - don't ever call a studio), and because of my diverse skill set and an extraordinary amount of luck, I had my foot in the door. Internships are actually not that hard to get - just apply. Check out http://www.gamedevmap.com/. Apply to as many as you can find.

It's all about who you know

This is probably the most important thing I have learned so far. I have only gotten one job through the 'proper' channels. Networking is so important in this business, and it's actually not really hard to do, considering how small the games industry is compared to many others. GameDev.net is a great place to start. The International Game Developers Association is also another great resource. IGDA meetings are fantastic places to meet people and share your ideas. Look for a chapter near you. If you have the means, going to the Game Developers Conference (GDC) is also an excellent idea.


Good luck! I hope all that helps.

[Edited by - geolycosa on September 20, 2008 1:44:12 PM]




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